ISO 14001:2015 revision explained (Part 1) – Context of the organisation

Posted by Marc Gardner on Tue, Aug 04, 2015

The ISO 14001 standard was revised in 2015 to make several major improvements. This article is the first in a series of four designed to help you understand the implications the revision has for your organisation, and how to develop an environmental management system (EMS) that conforms to the revised standard. 

Why context matters

Implementing an EMS is a strategic decision influenced by the context of the organisation. The "Context of the organisation" clause of ISO 14001 requires organisations to consider both the internal and external issues that can impact on their strategic objectives and how they plan their QMS.

Your organisation should focus particularly on factors and conditions that can affect your products, services, investments and interested parties. Context becomes an important consideration and helps to ensure that your QMS is designed and adapted for your organisation rather than taking a 'one size fits all' approach.

Determining your context

While there is no prescribed method of determining the context of your organisation in relation to ISO/DIS 9001, you should take this simple and pragmatic five-step approach:

  1. Identify the internal issues that can affect your organisation's products, services, investments and interested parties.
  2. Identify the external issues that can affect your organisation's products, services, investments and interested parties.
  3. Identify who are the interested parties and what are their requirements.
  4. Define the scope of your EMS.
  5. Establish and maintain your EMS.

Step 1: Identifying internal issues

Your organisation's internal context is the environment in which you aim to achieve your objectives. Internal context can include your approach to governance, your contractual relationships with customers, and your interested parties.

Internal issues can include your:

  • regulatory requirements
  • strategies to conform to your policies and achieve your objectives
  • relationship with your staff and stakeholders, including partners and suppliers
  • resources and knowledge (e.g. capital, people, processes and technologies)
  • risk appetite
  • assets
  • product or service
  • standards, guidelines and models adopted by the organisation
  • information systems

Step 2: Identifying external issues

To understand your external context, consider issues that arise from your social, technological, environmental, ethical, political, legal and economic environment.

External issues may include:

  • government regulations and changes in the law
  • economic shifts in your market
  • your competition
  • events that may affect your corporate image
  • changes in technology

Step 3: Identifying interested parties

Your interested parties include customers, partners, employees and suppliers. When developing your EMS, you only need to consider interested parties that can affect your:

  • ability to consistently provide a product or service that meets your customers' needs and any statutory requirements and regulations
  • continual improvement process
  • ability to enhance customer satisfaction through effectively applying your system
  • your process for ensuring you conform to your customers' requirements and any statutes or regulations that apply

Step 4: Defining the scope of your EMS

You must define the scope of your EMS so your compliance obligations are within reasonable operational boundaries.

You should also consider your own corporate context, the expectations of your interested parties, and the most significant processes that your EMS applies to.

Once defined, you will need to document the scope, and include all products, services and activities with significant environmental aspects.

Step 5: Establishing and maintaining your EMS

You must regularly review and monitor those internal or external issues you have identified. Once you understand your internal context, you can carry out a 'PEST' (political, economic, social and technological) analysis, for example. By doing this, you can determine which factors will affect how you operate.

While you have no control over external issues, you can adapt to them. PEST factors can be classified as 'risks' and 'opportunities' in a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis or other alternative methods.

How EQMS can help

EQMS Risk Manager is an effective solution that quickly and efficiently allows you to manage all of your risk, including environmental risk.

The incorporated Risk Assessment feature draws upon data from incidents, audits and reviews to offer both a qualitative and quantative assessment of your operations, supported by clearly defined criteria. Risks are immediately scored and compared based on an agreed formula to allow you to understand your own internal and external risk and manage your EMS effectively.

Once you've undertaken your initial assessment, EQMS Audit Manager allows you to manage any type of audit or inspection activity. It creates and stores checklists of questions for ongoing use and analysis, so you can maintain a thorough understanding of their context over time.

When unanticipated events occur, EQMS Issue Manager helps to identify those that are likely to happen again so you can eliminate any system-related problems. It automatically generates dashboards and reporting to identify trends and provide instantly available statistics that improve your decision-making and support you in implementing change. In this way, you can effectively incorporate considerations relating to the internal and external issues you've identified.


What you should do now

Learn more about EQMS software with our datasheets by clicking the link below. 

ISO 14001 Software


Tags: Environmental Management System, ISO 14001

ISO 14001:2015 revision explained (Part 2) – Leadership

Posted by Marc Gardner on Tue, Aug 04, 2015

If you're to feel the benefit of improved environmental performance, and to remove any barriers that prevent you from making that improvement, it's essential that your top management commit to your environmental management system (EMS).

By assigning responsibilities to top management, you can more effectively integrate environmental factors into your business processes, and consider environmental issues as part of a long-term sustainable business plan.

In this second part of our four-part series, we explain what the ISO 14001 revision means for your organisation, and focus on what management will need to do to adapt.

Reconnecting top management with environmental management

In the new ISO 14001, there are three key changes that concern leadership:

  1. A new 'Leadership and commitment' clause
  2. Extensions to requirements of the environmental policy
  3. Updates to clauses concerning organisational roles, responsibilities and authorities

Leadership and commitment

The new 'Leadership and commitment' clause (clause 5.1) says that top management must not delegate certain roles, and should take responsibility for a number of aspects of the EMS, including:

  • Considering environmental performance in strategic planning
  • Formulating environmental policy
  • Communicating the importance of effective environmental management (including, but not limited to, conforming to the EMS)
  • Supporting manager roles relevant to the EMS
  • Promoting continuous improvement
  • Establishing the organisation's environmental policy
  • Reviewing and monitoring the EMS

Essentially, you must ensure that your top management holds some direct responsibility and accountability for the EMS so that environmental considerations become a routine part of your strategic planning.

A KPI dashboard such as EQMS Dashboard makes this transition much easier. This user-friendly module combines all of your GRC solutions in one single reporting framework to aid decision-making at the highest level of your organisation and simplify your communication with personnel.

Environmental policy

As well as the 2004 standard's commitment to preventing pollution, the 2015 standard also requires a comprehensive policy commitment to protecting the environment. Top management must be responsible for formulating the environmental policy, and must implement, document, communicate, and expect personnel to comply with, that policy.

When formulating the environmental policy, management may need to consider the following:

  • Preventing pollution
  • Using sustainable resources
  • Mitigating climate change
  • Environmental context of the organisation
  • Responsible waste disposal
  • Controlling emissions
  • Compliance obligations

Roles, responsibilities and authorities

If they're to provide effective environmental leadership, your management must assign all EMS roles, responsibilities and authorities and communicate them to the relevant personnel.

There's no specific requirement for a specified management representative as set out in ISO 14001:2004. However, you must continue to ensure that the roles, responsibilities and authorities attributed to a management representative are assigned somewhere in the organisation.


What you should do now

For more information on the ISO 14001:2015 revision, check out our ISO 14001 Toolkit by clicking the link below!


ISO 14001 Revision   

Tags: Environmental Management System, ISO 14001

ISO 14001:2015 revision explained (Part 3) – Planning

Posted by Marc Gardner on Tue, Aug 04, 2015

Under ISO 14001:2015, organisations need to plan processes that address environmental factors and associated risk at every stage of their operations.

The revised standard also updates the requirements for setting environmental objectives and introduces a new clause focused on 'planning to take action'.

In this third part of our four-part series, we clarify the implications of the ISO 14001:2015 revision for your organisation, and focus on how planning requirements have changed.

Planning to take action

The changes in ISO 14001:2015 require you to take a 'risk-based approach' to your environmental management system (EMS). Risk-based thinking is intended to encourage you to stop viewing risk negatively and instead see opportunities available in it. 

For a more detailed explanation of risk-based thinking (specific to the parallel ISO 9001:2015 revision), click here

The planning process 

A complete assessment of EMS risks, and the planning process that follows, should:

  • Consider the context of the organisation
  • Consider the compliance obligations (but not necessarily the views) of the interested parties
  • Consider the compliance obligations of the organisation
  • Consider the environmental aspects and their potential impacts
  • Identify threats to the performance of the EMS, both those that could disrupt operations or decrease functionality.
  • Identify opportunities for increased functionality
  • Develop plans for actions to mitigate threats and maximise benefits to the EMS's operation, both initially and over time
  • Develop plans for actions to meet compliance obligations
  • Develop plans to integrate these actions into the EMS

Identifying environmental aspects and impacts

You'll need to identify the environmental impacts that your operations could have. When you come to consider the context of your organisation, you must first identify the environmental aspects. An environmental aspect is any element or characteristic of an activity, product, or service that can interact with the environment.

Environmental aspects can cause environmental impacts, which means any change in the nature of the environment as a result of an activity. These can be beneficial or adverse, major or minor, direct or indirect.

You must consider the likely impacts of your activities and plan to mitigate associated threats and maximise associated benefits as far as you can.

Setting environmental objectives

Complying with ISO 14001:2015 also means monitoring, communicating and updating your environmental objectives. So you'll have to set objectives at the relevant levels for those functions to meet their compliance obligations in line with their own environmental aspects and risk factors.

All relevant personnel should be aware of these environmental objectives and the EMS should monitor the extent to which they are achieved, flagging up areas where environmental performance needs to improve.

When planning actions to achieve the objectives, you must also document details of whatever resources are needed and set out a clear process by which you'll achieve results. 

The best method for all this is a Risk Planning Process. This involves:

  • Identifying environmental aspects within the scope of your EMS
  • Establishing what criteria you'll use to identify 'significant' environmental impacts
  • Mapping environmental aspects to potential impacts and identifying which aspects may lead to significant impacts 

You must also consider the risk associated with operating the EMS itself. And to continually improve your EMS you must plan to ensure the system achieves its objectives while minimising negative environmental impact.

The workflow-enabled functionality of EQMS Audit Manager guides you seamlessly through the audit process, and guarantees that corrective or preventive actions are completed. This reinforces best practice, reduces risk and provides a platform for you to continuously improve your EMS which is driven by ongoing review and refinement.

You should also aim to minimise the environmental threat posed by the equipment you use. EQMS Equipment Manager allows you to do this. It ensures that any equipment you use is safe (by prompting essential maintenance and checks) and complies with environmental regulations.

To extend this continual improvement across the full lifecycle of the product or service, you should assess and review your supply chain. With EQMS Supplier Manager, you can continuously improve by using the best suppliers, identifying and removing weaker performers and replacing them with better options from an approved supplier list.


What you should do now

Learn more about EQMS software by downloading our datasheets.

ISO 14001 Software


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Tags: ISO 14001, Change Management

ISO 14001:2015 revision explained (Part 4) – Support

Posted by Marc Gardner on Tue, Aug 04, 2015

ISO 14001:2015 extends the previous standard's 'Support' clause to get you to think about the plans and processes you'll need to be able to properly implement your environmental management system (EMS). 

In this fourth and final part of our series, we clarify what the revision of the 'Support' clause means for your organisation, and focus on how you might need to adapt to fulfil these new requirements. 


In short, ISO 14001:2015 means you must determine what resources you need for your EMS to work effectively, and then ensure you provide them. "Resources" can mean anything from an employee's skills and knowledge to buildings, equipment and other facilities. You'll need to be able to demonstrate that:

  • Your staff are "competent"
  • Your communications are transparent and clear
  • Your "documented information" is properly controlled


You must make sure that any employees who could conceivably affect your environmental performance are "competent" – i.e. properly skilled and trained. To demonstrate this, you should:

  • Identify the skills and knowledge employees need to be competent
  • Provide training where there are shortcomings
  • Keep written records of employees' competence in handling environmental aspects

To meet these requirements, you'll need to monitor your employees' competence and make any necessary improvements. 

If you're a micro organisation (i.e. a small business with fewer than 10 employees), it may be practical for you to document and monitor your employees' competence on paper or using spreadsheets. In most organisations, however, that kind of approach is too laborious and inefficient. Software such as EQMS Training Manager can pinpoint the types of development your employees need and bring these into line with your corporate goals, including environmental objectives.

EQMS Training Manager highlights gaps in training and ensures that all information is easy to find. It cuts administration costs by simplifying how you manage your training records while making sure that all staff have the level of competence they need.


Essentially, the updated 2015 standard requires you to develop a communications strategy to plan when, where, how and with whom communications will take place. This includes both internal and external communications.

Internal communications might include raising awareness among your employees about environmental issues, or reporting non-conformances to senior management. External communications could be dealing with complaints or handling media enquiries.

Your strategy should ensure that your communications:

  • Include information on your environmental performance
  • Cover all levels and functions of your organisation
  • Aid your continual improvement by including people who work on your organisation's behalf
  • Remain consistent with the EMS
  • Help you to comply with all relevant standards and regulations
  • Allow your staff to make suggestions for improving your EMS's performance


To make sure your staff understand and engage with your EMS, it's essential that you make documented information available to them that explains:

  • How the EMS works
  • The EMS's scope (which activities and locations the system applies to)
  • Where they can find information relating to their particular role(s)

ISO 14001:2015 gives you a duty to properly organise all documented information associated with your EMS. You must develop controls to make sure that the documented information relating to your EMS is:

  • Signposted to those who need access to it
  • Appropriately formatted and presented
  • Adequately protected
  • Reviewed and approved

EQMS Document Manager is an effective document management solution that ensures all documentation is correctly controlled, allowing you to easily meet your compliance obligations. It makes sure that users only access a document's latest version and never any inaccurate or out-of-date material. The software reduces the time, effort and resources needed to manage and distribute the information critical to your EMS.


What you should do now

For more on the ISO 14001:2015 revision, download our free toolkit by clicking the link below. 

ISO 14001 Revision

Tags: Environmental Management System, ISO 14001